The city is stunning at night. Canals are smeared either with the soft yellow lights of gangly, leering houses, or the dazzling red and green illuminations of ‘coffeeshops’ and brothels. The streets, windy and uneven, are also stunning - provided you can pause for long enough to enjoy them (the cyclists here have a death-wish and do their best to burst any tourist bubbles of self-taking or introspection).
About 10 minutes: the amount of time spent on the streets of Amsterdam, not able to smell weed. It’s such a thick scent - not like bacon or dutch waffles, which creep up on you and are swept away easily. Weed hits you like a wall, and then stays - reminding myself and N what whimps we’ve been for chickening out. An omnipresent reminder of our un-coolness.
And yet everyone we’ve met here seems so… content. Of course, that’s as gross an oversimplification as any, but compared to other city chaos I’ve experienced, things just feel more manageable in Amsterdam. Yes, the bikes whizz by and the neon lights blare - but those on the bikes, or sitting in cafes, or standing behind windows, seem blasé, at ease.
And then there’s us. Two history nerds who poured over museum exhibits until it got dark - who spent the last few days trying to avoid confronting the drug we are smelling everywhere. We both want to say we’ve done it - but feet that have been out in the winter chill all day have a habit of getting cold. That one question: do we rage against the glare of the neon light, or do we give in? For once, giving in feels a lot less relaxing than resisting.